Monday, July 16, 2018

Some themed topic proposals

My real reason for themed days is to make it easier to think of topics for the days and therefore make content more regular. A creative laxative, if you will. Any ideas for topics or areas to cover?

My current ideas:

  • Minion Monday: some low-level character or variant who occus in numbers (at least until I run dry for a while)
  • Hideout Hump Day: a place (often a hideout) but maybe a vehicle
  • “Every Other” Tuesday: Some other game system or something else entirely than ICONS
  • What-If Wednesday: Seeds or nuggets or ideas that might spark adventures
  • Throwback Thursday: the past, man: an old comics age or a recollection from my boring past
  • Fiction Friday: Once the stock of stories is used up, these will be posts about fixtion: consuming it or producing it or converting it to roleplaying

There will also occasionally be reviews or thoughts about structure or questions—my brain won’t stop producing those, even if only rarely.

Currently binging: iZombie

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Fiction: The Eschaton Dance (OIA #5)

The Eschaton Dance

Toomey said to Dr. Gideon LaCroix, "A van broke down outside." Toomey was perched on a chair, his feet dangling.

LaCroix looked around. "And no one knows anything about vans but me?"

Toomey smiled. "Cabot's away. Talithe does, but—"

LaCroix sighed. "I know. She can't leave. She's the receptionist."

LaCroix approached the van. Two teenage women and a man (boy, really, thought LaCroix, feeling each of this forty-one years) stood around while the fourth, a blond man, kicked the front grill. "Like, try it again, Teddy," said the boy-man watching. Teddy tried it again. He was built like a football player—eighteen, maybe.

"Hi," said the prettier of the two girls—women, LaCroix reminded himself. "Our van broke down. Can you give us a hand?" A redhead, she wore a purple minidress. Purple used to be the colour of royalty.

"Does this count as a beginning? Because if it is, he's the bad guy," said the other girl. She was not unattractive, either. "No? Let me check my notes."

"It's the second person, Wilma," said Teddy.

"But it's never anyone we haven't seen," she said.

"No," said Teddy, and he gritted his teeth and kicked the van again.

"You have to kick it harder than that," said the sloppily-dressed boy.

"You try it then."

"Let me look at it," said LaCroix. He lifted the hood and said, "How far have you driven?"

"Jinkies, I don't know," said the not-as-pretty girl. "We travel all over the country looking for secrets to unearth and mysteries to solve."

"And nothing...happens?"

"Oh, sure, we find mysteries," said Teddy, using his neckerchief to wipe his forehead.

I'd do both of you in the first week, LaCroix thought. And together the second week. And then he was glad his grandfather wasn't here to hear that; LaCroix was supposed to be controlling himself.

"But they're always guys in suits," said the purple dress, wistfully. "What I wouldn't give for real supernatural stuff."

"How did you get this far?" LaCroix said, "The engine's a wreck, you have no distributor cap, the head gasket's blown. And it's old." He sighed. "You'd better come upstairs and use our phone."

And then he heard, "Ris Seth there?" At least, he thought heard it, because the man had a terrible speech impediment. And a Great Dane jumped out of the back of the car.

For a moment, LaCroix thought, A talking dog! How odd, and then that thought went away. He knew his emotions were being played with, but he didn't care. "No. He's getting ready for his first date in centuries. He took the afternoon off."

"Ruh-roh," said the dog, and looked beyond LaCroix.

A burning angel hung there, his arms flung wide and carrying a spear: a flaming cross suspended in the air, carrying a spear.

"Jinkies!" cried out one of the girls, and "Jeepers!" said the other one, and LaCroix was dimly aware of pictures being taken. There was the sound of running feet, and LaCroix stepped in front of the women, careful not to touch them.

"You are damned," said the angel. "You will burn forever!" And he pointed his spear and a ball of fire flew straight at the lineup of LaCroix, the women, and the dog.

LaCroix spun to grab the women and drag them away, but they had already dived for cover, and the ball of fire caught him, though he ducked. His suit was singed, not on fire yet, and LaCroix pointed his fetch stick at the angel. "May the darkness consume you!"

A ball of darkness eighty feet wide hung in the sky, where there had been a man. "Run!" LaCroix pointed to the building. "That won't hold long."

The angel rose out of the darkness, its white wings beating strongly. "Not long at all," said the angel. It aimed a bolt of fire at LaCroix, but LaCroix dodged it.

"Know fear," said LaCroix, and pointed the stick again. Wisps of things that might have been ghosts shot from it and wreathed the angel.

"Foolish mortal," said the angel. "I have no fear." This bolt of fire was closer and smoke rose from LaCroix's jacket. Thank goodness I have my gris-gris bag, thought LaCroix.

LaCroix redoubled his efforts. "That's...not...true." The wisps were thicker now; you could almost see them. LaCroix felt the sweat popping from his skin, though he looked as though he was only standing, holding a stick.

Suddenly the angel clutched at his eyes. "I have failed. Forgive me, Father!" he wailed and he dashed away, through the air. LaCroix noted absently he was faster than the cars on the street.

Then LaCroix buckled. "Help me," he said to the teenagers.

* * *

The van had been towed away before the angel got back, and at Markur's boarding house the lady said he was out. "Like, I hope they're eating." Hairy cast a longing glance at the bar fridge that sat in the common room—the only room without a window. The dog went near it. "It's empty," said Hairy. "I already checked."

"Does the angel count as the second person?" asked Wilma.

"I think the towtruck driver does," replied Taffy. "I got his name."

"He barely spoke to us," said Ted. "I think we have to wait."

"What do you want with Seth, anyway?" asked LaCroix. He had forbidden Toomey and Daya from coming in here for fear of making them the second person Wilma was looking for.

"He knows about angels, right?" Teddy said.

"He knows about demons."

"Demons were just fallen angels," said Wilma. "In the myths."

"It's more complicated than that," said LaCroix. "From what he's told me."

"Dr. Severn says that angels are just a manifestation of our desire to believe."

"He would."

"He's my hero," said Wilma.

"He's a professor at my school." He said pointedly, "I'm on sabbatical."

"I think you're great," said Taffy. She smiled at him.

He murmured his thanks.

"So you don't think that angel was supernatural?"

"It'll turn out to be a hologram or a guy in a suit," said Wilma.

"But... there are powers."

"I've rarely seen them." He shook his head. It was like arguing with Cabot, but worse. She went on: "Even the Raven is just a highly-trained man. We had an adventure with him, so I know."

The Raven as a man had been retired since the early seventies. These kids were older than they looked if they had an adventure with him.

"Right," said LaCroix. He excused himself for a moment and got the toy from Daya's desk. It jostled a bit and then started rocking as soon as he brought it in the room. It clacked faster as he brought it toward Ringading. He didn't tell the kids: first, because there was no point in arguing with them; and second, because some secrets should be kept, at least until he knew the lay of the land.

"What's that?" said the pretty girl, Taffy.

"Executive toy. I bumped it—I was going to bring it in for Hairy to play with, but it's delicate."

Hairy ignored the toy. "Like, can we order out for pizza?"

LaCroix shrugged. "I would think so. The angel will come back, but we sometimes order out for pizza here. Toomey loves pizza."

"Toomey?"

"A co-worker."

"Will we meet Toomey?" asked Taffy.

"Will the pizza guy count as the second person?"

"Not if the tow truck driver doesn't," said Wilma.

"Then not yet."

* * *

The pizza guy had been and gone, and there were six empty boxes next to Hairy and Ringading. Everyone else was sharing one pizza when Cabot walked in. "Good day. The 'angel' hasn't returned yet."

Toomey and Hutton, who had been waiting in the doorway, burst in. "Oh, you should have seen it," Toomey said. "A burning angel it was, all lit up with fire. Fine work, LaCroix."

"You," said Wilma as she pointed at Cabot, "are the second one."

"I'm Jedediah Cabot. I'm one of the investigators here."

"Doesn't matter," she said darkly. "You're second."

"Terrific." To LaCroix he said, "Does that mean anything?"

"You're going to be the fall guy. Do you know where Markur is?"

"Probably shopping. I loaned him money for better clothes."

"You'll never get it back; mercenaries are notorious about that," said Toomey.

"I'll live." To LaCroix, Cabot said, "What do you mean, I'm going to be the fall guy?"

"The second person they meet is always guilty."

"But I'm part of a group they've already met."

"Good point," said LaCroix. "Wilma?"

"I withhold judgement for now," she said.

Teddy stretched. "We'll need a place to stay."

"Well, this house is protected, so you're probably best off to stay here," said Hutton. "I'd offer you my place, but I don't have one. I stay at the YWCA," she explained.

"I can take someone," said LaCroix. "My house is protected, but my couch is short." Cabot rolled his eyes. LaCroix looked at Ted and Hairy.

"Oh, I'll try it," said Taffy quickly. She was using him, but so what? If they both used each other, that was fine with him. He just had to find out her status before they touched.

"I'll take the guys," said Cabot. "Toomey— Where do you live, Toomey?"

"At home," Toomey replied, with a wave of his hand. Cabot nodded with understanding.

"No," said Wilma. "Someone's got to keep an eye on you. I'll stay at your place."

"I thought you were withholding judgement?"

"Just making sure. The boys will be fine here."

"Riiiight," said Cabot. "Toomey, stay with them."

"I will," Toomey said, and looked grateful.

"Like, guys? The angel's back. And he's brought friends."

"We might not get to our homes tonight," said LaCroix. He looked at Taffy. "Pity."

* * *

Cabot got up and looked out the window. Two black SUVs had pulled up and men in black got out. The Angel hung above them, his wings beating fast to hold him there.

"Talithe will keep them out. They don't want to create a scene."

"Will she do that?" asked Ted.

"If we ask her to."

"Like, you better hurry. They're coming up the walk," said Hairy.

Cabot headed out the conference room door—and Talithe said, "Great. I really need to use the bathroom. Can you watch the front?"

Cabot opened his mouth to say something, and then said, "Okay."

"Great!" She scurried off. Cabot sat down in the warm seat.

Two men in black suits walked in. They wore sunglasses and carried Bibles. The older one, in his fifties, was slightly winded from walking up the stairs. Presumably they saw that the bookstore had a female owner and the Sweet and Low Down wasn't open yet; LaCroix had to have come from here.

"May I help you?" asked Cabot politely. He hadn't been a combatant, so he wasn't worried about being recognized.

"Yes. We're looking for a man," said the older one. He gave a reasonable description of LaCroix.

"I don't think I know him," lied Cabot.

"We believe that he might have committed a crime," added the younger one.

"Might we see your staff?"

"No," said Cabot. "Most of our staff are in the interview process with clients right now. I can certainly take your number and ask them if they want to call you back, Mister—?"

"Talbot," said the older man. "Larry Talbot." Cabot gave no sign he recognized the name. He wrote down the number the man gave him.

The younger man said, "You should repent now. The end is nearer than you think."

"Thank you," said Cabot. "I'll keep that in mind."

They left. A minute later, Talithe returned. "Who was that?"

"Missionaries," said Cabot. "Don't let them in, okay? Tell them nothing."

She nodded and when Cabot went back into the conference room he found everyone hiding from the window and Wilma whispering, "He phoned the angel's people."

"I didn't," said Cabot. "Why are the blinds shut?" He pulled back the edge of the blind to see the angel's wing brush the glass as the angel looked into the conference room. "Ah."

"We need a plan, gang," said Ted. "A trap?"

"Of course," said Wilma.

"I thought you were avoiding the angel. Now you want a trap?" asked Cabot.

"With a trap, like, we're in control," said Hairy.

"And we like being in control," said Taffy, with a raise of her eyebrow meant for LaCroix. Cabot noticed but said nothing.

"Ringading, you'll be the bait."

"Ruh-ruh."

"Would you do it for a Ringading-Dong?" Said Taffy, holding up a snack.

"Ro way!" Ringading shook his head.

"Two Ringading-Dongs?"

"Like, I'd do it for two."

"Nope, we'll need you to swing the molasses can," said Ted. "It's gotta be Ringading."

"Rope."

"All right, you tyrant. Three Ringading-Dongs."

"Raw right." Ringading happily ate the three sticks in Wilma's hand. Cabot thought they looked like dried human fingers.

"We're going to hang a net under one of the trees near the front of the property. Wilma, you and I will drop the net on the angel when he swoops down to grab Ringading. Hairy, you're the best thrower of us, so you'll swing the molasses can to get rid of that spear. Taffy, I'll need you to give the signal when the angel is under a tree. Ringading will be the bait."

"Do you want help?" asked Hutton. "I could make a wall..."

"No offense, but we're experienced in this sort of thing. You aren't."

LaCroix expected Cabot to be offended, but all he said was, "Hey, go with it. Best not let me see it; Wilma is worried I'm the enemy as it is."

LaCroix drew Cabot outside the room and asked his reasons.

"Look," said Cabot. "It doesn't work or it does. If it doesn't, I haven't lost anything. If it does work, we find out who's employing the angel."

"What if it doesn't, and it makes the employer angry?"

"Not our lookout," said Cabot. "We haven't even seen from the Toon Gang. It's a gang of kids and their dog."

"Potentially immortal kids and their dog." He filled in Cabot on the comment about Raven. "Who knows what kind of enemies they've collected in their time?"

* * *

Ringading moved back and forth on the sidewalk, waiting to be spotted by the angel. "Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm," he hummed. "Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm." The detectives watched from a second-storey window. Suddenly the angel detached himself from a house across the street, snatched up the dog, evaded the net, and flew away.

"Well, crap," said Ted. "That's never happened before."

"We'll save you, Ringading!" cried Hairy. "Though, like, I don't know how."

* * *

Cabot was already looking up the phone number in the reverse directory. "Please let it not be a cell phone," he said. "Here it is. The Wolfram Group. Hold on while we see who owns them." He popped a CD in the computer. Hutton peered over his shoulder.

"They're a wholly owned subsidiary of Rapture Industries."

"I know that name," said LaCroix. "Reverend Fate?"

"Yup," said Cabot. "Immanentizing the Eschaton since 1995. He opened a church in Las Vegas about six years ago."

"Wait," said Toomey. "What's immanentizing the whatsit?"

"Reverend Fate thinks we should embrace the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. He's working to bring about armageddon."

"No thought for those of us without souls," said Toomey.

"What does he want with Ringading?" asked Hutton.

"Good question," said Cabot.

"Well, he talks," said LaCroix. The others looked at him, not comprehending. "He's a talking dog."

"Yeah, so?"

LaCroix looked at them. "Of course. It is Freedom City."

They could hear the heavy tread on the stairs: the gang was returning without Ringading. Cabot let Hutton do the talking. "Got a lead on him," she said. "Easy-peasy. He's being held by people who are employed by Reverend Fate."

"Who?" asked Ted.

"We'll explain on the way." Somehow only Hairy and Taffy were with LaCroix while the rest rode with Cabot.

"Like, I hope the ol' Ringster's okay," said Hairy.

"It will be fine," said Taffy as she patted his arm.

"I can't stand being away from him too long."

An awful thought hit LaCroix. He said, "He means that literally, doesn't he?"

"We all get nauseated after a couple of days, but it hits Hairy the worst." She wrinkled her nose. "He starts vomiting. Disgusting."

"And you've been with Ringading for thirty years?"

In the back seat, Hairy moaned. "I don’t think it's a good idea to tell our secrets."

"Forty," she said to LaCroix. "Does that make me less interesting to you?"

LaCroix smiled. "Actually, it makes you more interesting."

* * *

"We have to assume Reverend Fate got what he wants," said Cabot.

"But why would he want Ringading?" Hutton asked. "Wilma? Ted?" They were quiet.

"The obvious answer is that he's not a dog," said Toomey.

"Obvious to you," Cabot said.

"It’s Freedom City."

"Right." Cabot nodded.

"Reverend Fate is a brand of Christian—"

"We're not all like that," said Hutton.

"I said a brand of Christian," said Toomey. "So whether it’s true or not—" Toomey looked at Wilma "—he thinks Ringading is a demon. He wouldn't kidnap an angel."

"Okay," said Cabot. "I buy it. So what do we do?"

"Well, if he wants to immanentize the whatsit, he'll be forcing Ringading to give up the shape of a dog. To reveal he's a demon."

"Oh," said Ted. "Then it won't work."

"No, it will just kill the dog."

Ted and Wilma groaned.

* * *

They burst through the door at Wolfram, expecting to overwhelm a secretary. Instead, there were six missionaries waiting for them.

Cabot said a rude word. The missionaries stepped behind office furniture, opened their Bibles, and began to read.

"Spells!" yelled Toomey, and he, Hutton, and LaCroix dived to the sides, LaCroix dragging Taffy with him. Bolts of lightning arced from the ceiling to where the first six had stood, hitting Cabot and Ted. Cabot was wearing enough metal to carry the current to the floor, but Ted wasn't, and the force of the bolt knocked him down.

Toomey rolled and tackled the nearest missionary at the knees; he went down, Bible and sunglasses flying. Hutton gestured, and the earth in a potted plant rose and re-formed itself as a dark globe around another missionary's head. He clawed at it. LaCroix gestured with his staff and a third one stood, motionless, sweat breaking out as he fought the fear.

Cabot pulled his pistol for a fourth missionary, but the lightning bolt had fused metal parts of his pistol, rendering it useless. He swore again and dodged to the side.

The three remaining missionaries read aloud. This time the lightning bolts hit Hutton, LaCroix, and Toomey. Hutton fell against a desk and was unconscious; LaCroix put fear into another missionary; and the missionary against Toomey held him off by holding his head. Cabot charged forward to hit the man. The man fell, and didn't get up again.

Hairy clamped his hand over another missionary's mouth. "Like, you don't get to talk here." Toomey hit the missionary in the belly, and he fell down. Toomey hit him again and he stayed down. Then Toomey hit the man Hutton had englobed. He didn't move again.

LaCroix and Cabot each hit the last missionary, and he fell down. Then Cabot went to check on Hutton. She soon stirred.

"Take it easy. Scalp wounds are nasty."

"We have to get Ringading," she said.

"No, now we let the authorities do it. He's just a dog."

LaCroix said, "Um. He's not. Whatever he is, he's not just a dog."

Wilma was going through the wastepaper baskets. "Here," she said. She held up a long grey-white feather. "The angel has been here. Which means Ringading was here!"

They looked at the unconscious bodies. "None of these is 'Talbot,'" said Cabot. "So more will be waiting with the Reverend."

"How do we find out where they are?"

"We wake one of them up or..." Cabot looked at the secretary's desk, the same desk near the feather. There was a notepad on it. He took a pencil from the desk drawer and lightly stroked it. "Or we bring up the last thing written on this pad. It might help." He used the Internet browser on his cell phone to check the address he got. "It's an abandoned hangar."

"Lots of room for occult shenanigans," said LaCroix. Taffy was looking at one of the Bibles. "The spells are written in Enochian. I recognize the alphabet, but I can't read it."

"I know Enochian," said Wilma. "But it was a fraud."

"It was," agreed LaCroix, "but all the angels know it now." He shook his head. "Stuck up lot, angels."

In the mean time, Cabot had peeled the shirt off a missionary. "Nakedness is a great talk-inducer, and it helps wake him up. Hairy, can you fill this jug with water? Bathroom appears to be over there."

"Where did you learn this stuff?" asked Wilma.

"News stories about Abu Ghraib," said Cabot.

* * *

Half a block from the hangar, Cabot stopped. "We need a plan."

"If we had a wheelbarrow, a flashlight, and a blanket—" began Ted.

"A real plan, not one of your ideas, Ted. I wouldn't be surprised if you've coasted on the powers of this dog-who-is-not-a-dog. Lamb, the glove compartment has binoculars. See who's in the parking lot."

Cabot's phone rang. It was LaCroix. "There's a guy watching the parking lot, main entrance at the side. Four other men in black. In the middle, two dozen cultists, the angel, and the Reverend."

"Ringading?"

"Bound in the center of a big pentacle."

"How do you know these things?"

"That's my gift." He didn't tell Cabot about his grandfather's spirit. "He's doing the reveal now, and the gate at midnight."

"Can he do that?"

"I don't know. If it's what I think, all we have to do is break the circle and Ringading can come out. Markur would know, but he doesn't have a cell phone, and his landlady is tired of answering the phone for me."

"Great." Cabot relayed the information to the others in his car. Then, to the phone he said, "We have eight people. Run it like a football play? Four of us take the missionaries in black, two the angel, and one destroys the circle while the other takes the Reverend?"

"No," said LaCroix. "All of us take the missionaries as silently as we can, and designate some to get to the Reverend if possible."

Cabot chewed his thumb. "Are they close enough together for us to do that?"

A pause. Then: "Yes. If we move now."

Cabot filled the others in. "If you find yourself without an opponent, move on. The main objective is to stop the Reverend and free Ringading. LaCroix tells me we can do it by breaking the circle."

"If you believe him," said Wilma. "He is part of your team."

"I think it's safe to say they're good guys, Wilma," said Ted. "They're helping us."

Tney got out of the car. "Just a moment," said Hutton. She went to the grassy boulevard and chanted. A blocky figure made of earth rose up, seven feet tall. Stones projected here and there from the dirt. "Now I'm ready."

GM's Note: She made the golem with Create Objects, then she paid a hero point to have Animate Objects on her earth control, at Rank 4.

The rocky figure strode to the side door and tore it off its hinges. The missionaries inside were startled to see it—they had expected to see the eight people who followed.

"Attack the men in black suits!" ordered Lamb.

Two of them put away their Bibles and drew their pistols; surely a lightning bolt would have no effect on dirt, but a pistol—

The other three read their spells, in voices that struggled to keep calm.

Cabot and Ted caught one as he pulled out his pistol, Cabot low, Ted high. Cabot missed, but Ted hit him, and the man went down. LaCroix hit another with a pistol, and he went down. Toomey took one of the ones reading; the man fell to the ground almost instantly.

The creature of earth took the two remaining lightning bolts. They fused it into a solid mass, and it moved no more.

GM's Note: That's what happens when your minion fails its Toughness save.

Wilma, Taffy and Hairy tackled one of the reading missionaries, but Wilma swung so vigorously she lost her glasses. "I can't see!" she cried. Taffy and Hairy both missed. "Like, we're coming, Ring!"

Toomey finished him off.

* * *

Deeper inside the abandoned hangar, the Reverend Fate lifted an eyebrow at the sound of the door being ripped off its hinges, but kept reading. Ringading whimpered, as arcane forces ripped at his body.

* * *

"Crap," said Cabot. He pulled himself off the floor and dove at the missionary who had no one near him, the one near the inside entrance. The man kept his Bible as he fell, and Cabot took him to the ground, unharmed. The man read, and there was no lightning bolt. Cabot thought, "Different spell." The man stood and kicked at Cabot, but with the strength of five men. Cabot grunted.

Lamb gestured, and the entire creature flew at the man. He went down, and the statue shattered with a loud crash, leaving behind only earth and shells where it had been fused.

Cabot pulled himself out of the dirt and said, "So much for subtle." He grinned.

Ted said, "Let's rescue Ringading!"

Cabot said, "Then you go first."

Ted, Hairy, Wilma, and Taffy stepped through the door.

The fireball from the angel took all four of them down.

* * *

Crouching beside the door, LaCroix said, "Lamb, can you make a wall to shield us?"

"Sure." She used the dirt from the creature, and it lifted and formed into a rectangle.

LaCroix said, "When we get through, scatter. The angel can't hit all of us."

Toomey said, "And the objective is the dog?"

"Right. Destroy the circle, carry the dog out."

Cabot took out his pistol. "In case."

LaCroix said, "Run!"

They scattered into the hangar, Toomey heading straight for the circle.

From his spot, Cabot aimed for the Reverend. He grazed the Reverend in the leg, but didn't break the tall man's concentration. Around the circle, members of the church kept invoking the ritual. "Blast!" thought Cabot. "Not enough bullets for all of them."

Lamb threw the wall at the angel. She missed, and the wall fell apart when it fell on the other side of the circle, leaving a mound of dirt.

Toomey scraped the circle with his foot, but to no avail. He realized it was painted on, so he ran to the center of the circle, intent on bringing out Ringading. Fortunately the circle was not attuned to Fey, only creatures of Hell.

The angel found himself in a globe of darkness that nearly touched the floor.

A moment's flight brought him out of the chill darkness, near the wall of the hangar.

Cabot ran forward and shot at the Reverend again, but missed this time.

Lamb hit him with the dirt, but he still kept on reading.

Toomey tried to take the dog out of the circle...and found he couldn't. It was as though the dog were held in place by a wall.

LaCroix tried to put fear into the angel again, but couldn't.

The angel fired at LaCroix...and a bolt of fire hit him, and even through his protective juju hurting him, frying the arm with the fetch stick.

A bolt of fire shot past Lamb's ear, and she made the mass of dirt rise again, this time as a clip to pin his wings. He was moving too fast for her.

Toomey left the circle, running as fast as he could, and he knocked the Reverend down.

"It's too late," said the Reverend. "Do you see what you've been cavorting with?"

In the circle, clouds of smoke obscured Ringading. They could make out little except a huge pair of bat wings and a man-like figure, over twelve feet tall.

"Forget about breaking the circle," said Cabot. He pointed the pistol at the Reverend's head. "Call off your angel."

"I've won," said the Reverend. At Cabot's push, he said, "Stop attacking these people."

"Louder." The chanting of the churchmembers broke off. They looked at each other, confused.

"Stop attacking these people!" The angel backed off, wings beating faster to hover.

"No portal tonight," said LaCroix as he walked over. He was favouring his burned arm.

"But I've still proven the dog is a demon!"

"They didn't see a thing," said LaCroix, inclining his head to the teenagers.

"And all I see is a winged humanoid," said Cabot. "Could be any of six or seven superheroes, for all I know."

"He's in a circle!" said the Reverend.

"No, he's not," said Hutton, and dirt erupted all through the circle as it rose into the air from beneath the floor. The floor cracked and crumbled as the dirt rose higher into the air, making clouds that billowed. The churchmembers moved back, away from the dirt and dust, and then they all fled, leaving only the Reverend and the angel.

"You fool! You've destroyed the circle! Now he'll eat us all!"

"No," came a deep voice. "Just you."

A tentacle lashed out of the clouds and seized the Reverend, drew him in. There was a scream and then silence.

"Golly," said Lamb quietly.

Out of the clouds trotted a Great Dane.

Toomey said, "I thought you were a demon."

"I rike being a dog. It's fun." He paused a moment. "And demons never say Rank Rou." He laughed, a wheezing giggle, then went over and began to lick Hairy's face.

* * *

"I hope I was up to your expectations," said Taffy.

"I hope I was up to your needs," said LaCroix.

They were standing in the sunshine, waiting for the Enigma Engine to return from the shop.

"Did they—?" Lamb whispered to Toomey.

Toomey nodded. "I'd say yes."

LaCroix held up three fingers behind his back.

"I'm sorry I suspected you," said Wilma. "But it's always the second person we meet. Always. And who knew that the Reverend had built an elaborate switching mechanism under the floor of the hangar?"

"I'm sure you could have guessed."

Just then the Enigma Engine pulled up, with Ted at the wheel.

"Like, I'm sorry the Reverend skipped the country before he could be brought to trial."

Toomey said, "I don't think you'll have to worry about the Reverend."

"Rat's right!" said Ringading, and he burped. LaCroix caught and hid the button that flew out.

The four teenagers laughed, then said their good-byes and left.

Cabot waved as they left. "Listening to Wilma was...instructive," he said to Hutton.

"Oh?"

The other two stopped to listen.

"Listening to her twist things around...well. There might actually be something to this magic business. It's at least as plausible as superpowers."

"Cabot, there might be some hope for you yet," said LaCroix.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

ICONS Examples: The Fight...

SYSTEM: ICONS

ICONS: A Sample Combat

Here are the two characters I rolled up over the last two days:
StrobeVacuum Flux
Prowess2 (Poor)Prowess3 (Average)
Coordination7 (Incredible)Coordination5 (Good)
Strength4 (Fair)Strength6 (Great)
Intellect4 (Fair)Intellect5 (Good)
Awareness5 (Great)Awareness4 (Fair)
Willpower5 (Great)Willpower5 (Good)
Stamina9Stamina11
Determination2Prowess2
SpecialtiesPower (Stunning) (+1), Technology (+1)SpecialtiesPower (Gravity Control) (+1), Science (+1)
Powers
  • Incredible (7) Reflection
    • Extra: Alternate form (Light)
    • Extra: Stunning Limit: Not vs machines or through machines
Powers
  • Incredible (7) Density
    • Extra: Gravity Control (Affliction)
    • Extra: Telekinesis
    • Extra: Flight
Qualities
  • Lady of Light
  • Scarred by the service
  • Has to help
Qualities
  • Something to prove
  • "I'm the event, meet the horizon!"
  • "Nah, not weird yet."
And we set up with one of those classic Superheroes Have A Misunderstanding On Meeting things...
What has gone before: A new villain called Egomaniac appeared and Strobe got into a fight with him; he eventually led her to a science center and trapped her between mirrors in a laser exhibit, then escaped. Young North Reiss, secretly Vacuum Flux saw the chance to beat up on Strobe, whom he assumed was causing the problem. (Hey, Egomaniac waved before leaving.) So Strobe got out by the expedient of turning physical, and a densitized Vacuum Flux is there to hit her....

The (Anticlimactic) Fight

Page 1

PanelDescriptionVacuum FluxStrobe
Vacuum Flux He gets in the first shot. Dense, he's strength 7 (6+1), and she's not expecting anything, so treat her as Prowess 0. He rolls a 1 for a total of 4 (Prowess of 3 plus 1).
  • Sta 11
  • Det 2
  • Prowess 3 + roll 1=4
  • Sta 9
  • Det 2
Strobe's Prowess is 2, but we're treating it as 0. She rolls a 3, for a total of 3 (0+3) 4>3; Moderate success (no slam) Prowess 0 + roll 3=3
Dense, his Strength is 7, so subtract 7 from Strobe's Stamina.
  • Sta 9-7=2
  • Det 2
Strobe She switches to light form; her strength is pitiful so she decides to try Stunning. She rolls a 5, and that gets added to her Coordination of 7. Coordination 7 + roll 5=12
His Coordination is 5, and though he rolls a 5, she hits. 12>10 Moderate success (no slam) Coordination 5 + roll 5=10
Test to see how well the Stunning worked: Test Incredible Stunning against Incredible Strength, and both roll a 4. Stunning level 7 + roll 4=11 Strength 7 + roll 4=11
No effect.

Page 2

Panel Description Vacuum Flux Strobe
Vacuum Flux He flies over to punch her again: He swings and rolls a 3. Prowess 3+ roll 3=6
She dodges even though he can't touch her; she rolls a 4, and he thinks he grazed her or missed. Prowess 2+ roll 4=6; Moderate success (no slam) Marginal success (no effect)
Strobe Now that she knows he's not Egomaniac, her concern is to take this away from bystanders. She can fly through closed windows (she's light), so she does, and tags her "Lady of Light" quality, so she can spend a Determination point for a recover. She gets 5 back (the higher of her Strength or Willpower).
  • Sta 2+5=7
  • Det 2-1=1
>

Page 3

Panel Description Vacuum Flux Strobe
Vacuum Flux He follows, but he can't travel through glass except by breaking it...which he does. Shards of glass fall down on the crowd, which are mostly kids and teenagers.
Strobe The GM compels Strobe to return and obey the "Has to help" quality. Strobe gets a Determination point for this. (If Strobe had refused, it would have cost her player a Determination point.)
  • Sta 7
  • Det 1+1=2
>

Page 4

Panel Description Vacuum Flux Strobe
Vacuum Flux Turn occupied by turning around, which is a little harder for him, being as he's solid and all.
Strobe A teenage boy (North's friend Connor) was badly hurt by the falling glass. Strobe can't turn solid to help (some guy keeps punching her) so instead he settles around and surrounds the injured teen and tries to be a healing light. That is, she's going to stunt Healing.
She's going to activate the "Has to Help" quality and stunt the Healing power off her Alternate Form: 7 Stamina will bring Connor back to full health.
  • Sta 7
  • Det 2-1=1

Page 5

Panel Description Vacuum Flux Strobe
Vacuum Flux In the tradition of this sort of thing, he totally misunderstands and yanks Connor out of her embrace before she can heal him. (I don't think a roll is necessary.)
Strobe She says, "Wait." She says, "I'm trying to help, because the ambulance won't get here on time.
Persuasion: it's rolled with Willpower. Neither has relevant skills. She wants to increase her effort, so she activates her "Lady of Light" quality and spends her last Determination point for a +2 to the roll. 5+3=8 5+6+2=13 (massive success!)
Really, that looks like the end of the fight.

How long does a stunt last?

It's not in ICONS Assembled but in Great Power it says on page 22 that a stunt lasts until the end of combat or the end of the chapter, whichever comes first.
You could rule that the Healing stunt went away in this example, but I would probably allow it to stay: the intent was to help the injured boy, not to lay a smackdown on VF, so it seems in keeping with the intent (and comic books) that it be useful.
On the other hand, if she had stunted, oh, Energy Drain with the intent of really whacking him, I'd rule that stunt is over because the fight's over.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A few up ahead...

At least Fiction Friday is populated until the end of the month. I can see they're not the most popular posts, but they're there, and I have been meaning to put them somewhere else in case the Green Ronin boards shut down.

 Now, a Round Robin, where there are N players, and each one takes a turn GMing a session, so there are N sessions. Easy on the GM who is first, a little hard on the last GM, but we used to have fun with them. Same game system throughout.

If Alan, Barb, and Carl are playing, everybody makes characters. Alan runs the first session, Barb the second, and Carl the third. They don’t plot it out beforehand. It’s about screwing your successor and being screwed by those before you. :)

My question is, in these modern hectic times, what's the ideal number of people for one? I think two is probably out; three might be do-able, though you might want to cycle through twice. You probably want at least four, but if the sessions are weekly, that's more than a month's commitment.

 So what do number do you think is best?

(Variant: each GM rewrites the characters in the system of his or choice.  Alan runs Champions, Barb runs ICONS and Carl runs M&M. Much more work, but people get to try other systems.)

Monday, July 9, 2018

ICONS examples: Second character (Vacuum Flux)

SYSTEM: ICONS

One more. I want to make the two characters fight in a third post, and having two characters who can't affect each other, well, that would be a bad example. (Or a great one that shows the use of Qualities to totally change the environment.)

Origin

Origin: rolled a 7. Birthright; either +2 to a power or a new innate power.

Attributes

AttributeRollLevel
Prowess4Average (3)
Coordination5Fair (4)
Strength9Great (6)
Intellect6Fair (4)
Awareness7Good (5)
Willpower8Good (5)

Stamina is 11.

Number of powers

Rolled a 10 for number of powers, so that's 4 powers.

Powers

Just the rolls and results.

2d6 for typeTypePower RollPower2D6 for levelLevel
8Movement5+6Wall-Crawling32
6Defense6+4Resistance96
10Alteration1+6Density65
9Alteration6+1Animal Mimicry96

Well, Density already includes Damage Resistance, so that might be used for an extra. A dense wall-crawler? No ideas sprint to mind.

Animal Mimicry has the most, uh, flavour, so it's likely to be predominant. In fact, by mimicking a spider or gecko, the character can have Wall-Crawling, so that one becomes tentative, too.

The combination of Density and Animal Mimicry appeals to me. Maybe this character is a child of two supers and has a weird combination of powers from his or her parents?

Would one extra power just tie it together or am I better off picking one power as a theme and converting all the other powers to extras?

Well, I really want someone who can affect that light-based being created in the other post, and the one that looks useful for that is density—density brings to mind gravity, and gravity bends light... So we'll make Density the main power, use +2 from the origin to up it to Incredible, and turn the other three powers into Extras, one of which will be Gravity Control:

  • Incredible Density
    • Extra: Effect (Gravity Control) (with GM's permission, default effect will be Affliction: he touches you and creates a quantum black hole inside you. It evaporates, but the tidal forces inside your body can have lasting effects)
    • Extra: Telekinesis
    • Extra: Flight (so he can move around)

Determination

If this were a villain, I wouldn't bother with Determination (which is 6 - # of powers, or 4 = 2).

Specialties

Rolled a 6, so two specialties.

I'll pick the Specialties after I figure out the character.

Thinking about character

Born to it? Let's say child of supers, still. Something to prove. I think of Rosa as being older, maybe thirty or in her thirties, so this character is young: sixteen or seventeen.

Digression about Strobe

Rosa could be sixty, but the accident that transformed her into light made her young again, and when she becomes corporeal, she becomes herself in the time after the accident, when she was obsessing over her looks and how she had changed. That...is a detail I could use. Also gives the GM a different backstory with more history to work with. I digress.

End Digression

Because I don't want anything romantic between an adult and a sixteen year old I'm going to make this character not sexually attractive...that is, a male.

(Name? Gravity control leads to thoughts of black holes, which leads to the Schwartzchild radius, which leads to a look: When using his powers, he's covered by a black sheen and becomes slightly smaller; light bends around him. Table the name until later.)

He should probably have Science as a specialty. The other, I'm going to be a total combat nut and say Aerial Combat.

Quality

Well, say that he started the fight, so "Something To Prove" could be a Quality.

I also like the idea that being a super is new to Strobe and having powers is old hat to him, because he was born with them. "Nah, This Ain't Weird" might reflect that.

(Actually, I'm going to reverse an earlier decision and pick "Power Gravity Control" as the specialty instead of "Aerial Combat". It could help in maneuvers to create advantages for stunts.)

And some kind of epithet or power description to make stunting powers easier..."I'm the event, meet the horizon" for lack of a better one.

Name?

Okay, a name. Is there something about to shadows between flashes of light? Or something about light bending? Nothing's coming to mind.

Okay, I don't like the name but it fits with the mental image I have of this guy: Vacuum Flux

I want to up the science quotient a bit, so I'm going to trade two attributes, Intellect and Awareness. That way he's Intellect 5 and with Awareness 4.

The final result

Name: Vacuum Flux (North Reiss)
ProwessAverage (3) 
CoordinationFair (4) 
StrengthGreat (6) 
IntellectGood (5) 
AwarenessFair (4) 
WillpowerGood (5) 
Stamina11(Strength+Willpower)
Determination2 (if a PC) 
Specialties
  • Power (Gravity Control)
  • Science
Powers
  • Incredible (7) Density
    • Extra: Gravity Control (default power: Affliction)
    • Extra: Telekinesis
    • Extra: Flight
Qualities
  • Something to prove
  • "I'm the event, meet the horizon"
  • Nah, it ain't weird

Sunday, July 8, 2018

ICONS examples: First character (Strobe!)

SYSTEM: ICONS

Three posts put ahead of time here: two sample characters and a fight between heroes. This will be wordy, but I'm going to try to explain some of what's going in my mind as I roll up the character, try to make some representative decisions, and try not to cheat. I don't have dice handy, but I do have a dice roller on my phone, so I'll use that.

Remember that my creative process is not your creative process. This is an example, but you do you.

Our First Hero

Here we go; please forgive any sexism, racism, age-ism and so forth because this are my default assumptions (like, the character will start as a white cis straight male because, well, I am, but might not stay that way).

Origin

Origin first, rolling 2d6 and looking on the chart on page 56: 3+2=5. Transformed. So I get to add +2 to something at the end.

There's so much thinking and inventing that goes on as I create a character that knowing I have an option at the end to change things is useful...but you could always roll for Origin as the step before finalization.

Attributes

Now some levels for attributes:

AttributeRollLevelComments
Prowess2+1=32(He's not a martial artist at this point, anyway.)
Coordination6+5=117A power for determination and stunting purposes
Strength5+1=64Fair
Intellect2+4=64Fair
Awareness2+5=75Good
Willpower4+4=85Good

I'm going to wait until I know more before I decide to what will get +2, or if I trade two attributes. (For example, if all the powers attack with Prowess or Willpower, then I'll probably want to trade that 7 for the value for Prowess or Willpower). And all things being equal, I'd like high values for Strength (it affects Stamina and punching damage) and for Willpower (if a high Strength doesn't seem appropriate).

Number of powers

I roll 1+3=4 for 2 powers. (This guy is not looking like a Swiss Army Knife of supers.)

Powers

For this character, I'm going to roll powers and levels immediately, type-power-level, but if (say) I wanted to keep page flipping to a minimum, I might roll all the types first, then the powers, then the levels. Just be consistent. Anyway: onward.

The first power is...5+2=7, Offensive. Rolling on the offensive table, I get 4+2, or Dazzle. And another roll for level gives me 4+3=7, or Good (5).

The second power is 5+1=6, or Defensive. Well, I suppose that's good; the character's Stamina at this point will be 9 but that might change. A 9 Stamina is okay. 3+5 is Reflection, and the level is 3+6=9, or Great (6).

Offensively, that's not much. I mean, a punch does Fair damage, and the Reflection will work a lot of the time; the Dazzle is useful...

I can make the Dazzle a little more powerful by making it an Extra: Effect (Dazzle) of the Reflection. If the Dazzle is light, that gives some kind of light theme to the Reflection, too. And the high Coordination means he's likely to hit. I might not do it, though: it's just a kind of reflexive min-maxing, trying to find something interesting.

Normally by now I'd have an idea and I'd just pick the Specialties. But the character looks inchoate at this point, so I'll roll for Specialties and see if that sparks ideas.

Specialties

How many Specialties? Let's roll...6+2=8, for three Specialties.

We'll roll for three, and I might adjust them if I think one should be an expert or some idea strikes me.

RollSpecialty
Another 6+2Technology. Okay...so we'll probably go with a science-based excuse for the powers. (Don't have to; this character might be a mechanic with a magical gem, but we'll use science as the first approach.)
3+6Military. So maybe a military experiment gone wrong, but tough to reconcile "soldier"with the low Prowess.
4+5Power.

Great (he said, sarcastically).

Maybe you're looking at it and going, "Oooh, I could do this" but you're not here. So let's prod the character around a bit.

Back to fiddling with powers

I really want to add another power, because Dazzle and Reflection together don't really spark anything for me. Mechanically, I'll add it as an extra to the Reflection, but I'll need a limit to pay for that extra.

(A limit can (a) pay for an extra on the same power, or add +2 to the power, or give back a point of determination when you're calculating determination.)

Ah: this seems sort of light-based powers in my mind, but of course I didn't roll anything as nice as Light Control. Let's say Stunning: the Dazzle flickers at a particular rate and causes the equivalent of epilepsy in the target, which can render them immobile (if it works). And because of that biological basis, it doesn't work on machines, or through machines. So it definitely doesn't work on robots or security guards watching on closed-circuit TV. That's (a) offensive and (b) ranged, taking advantage of that high Coordination.

Now the powers look like:

  • Great (6) Reflection
    • Extra: Great Dazzle
    • Extra: Stunning (vs Strength) Limit: Not on or through machines.

That's not bad. But you know, I'm starting to get the idea of someone who turns into light. I think Alternate Form Light would be excellent... It also gives movement and immunity to physical harm. Ah. Just thought of a way to do that.

Instead of making Dazzle an extra of Reflection (which I was just doing for the points, really), let's use the rule on page 81 to substitute Alternate Form Energy (Light) for Reflection, and make it an extra of Dazzle. The powers now look like:

  • Good (5) Dazzle
    • Extra: Effect (Alternate Form: Light)
    • Extra: Stunning Limit: Not on or through machines

As part of my points-mongering nature, it seems to me that the +2 should be added to the Dazzle. Because Extras are at the same level as the "parent" power*, it'll cascade down to the other powers that are extras:

  • Incredible (7) Dazzle
    • Extra: Effect (Alternate Form: Light)
    • Extra: Stunning Limit: Not on or through machines

* Okay, not necessarily for the "pool" powers that let you choose the effects: Gadgets and Magic. But we're not dealing with either of those here.

Our hero so far

NAME (unknown at this point)Comments
Prowess2Poor: below average
Coordination7Counts as a power for figuring determination
Strength4Fair
Intellect4Fair
Awareness5Fair
Willpower5Fair
Stamina9Strength 4 plus Willpower 5
Specialties
  • Military (+1)
  • Power (Stunning, I think) (+1)
  • Technology (+1)
 
Powers
  • Incredible (7) Dazzle
    • Extra: Effect (Alternate Form: Light)
    • Extra: Stunning Limit: Not vs or through machines

Determination

The high Coordination counts as one power, plus three more (Dazzle, Alternate Form, Stunning). Determination is 6 - 4 = 2.

Character Story

Now to think of a character...and I kind of like the idea that the character wants to be in light form...that's the default...and when a "regular person" lots of attention is spent keeping together; that's why the Prowess is low. He or she is thinking of keeping the body solid rather than fighting. I'd have to talk to the GM about whether the Dazzle and Stunning can be used in Alternate form: I think so, from the description, but some GMs are fussy and would say it's equivalent to being Phased. (I've run across that.) As I say, I think it's okay, but I'd talk to the GM to make sure that I don't, say, unleash the Stunning when the GM doesn't think it's appropriate.

So a soldier who was working as a technician on Yet Another Supersoldier program...or maybe an ex-soldier at a fusion power plant experiment. There's a problem with the equipment—I just re-watched Captain America: The First Avenger last night, so we'll say it was sabotage.

I kinda like the idea that the character is gay, forced out by don't ask, don't tell just before it was repealed, and then immediately hired as a civilian contractor. (Had the necessary skills and security clearance...) (Or am I channelling the Ray? I know so little about the character that I can't be sure.)

Okay, we'll gender-flip: the character is a woman. Still forced out. Been working on this project for a decade. They're getting close. (Nah, not a supersoldier project: a power supply the size of a box from Amazon that can power a block of Manhattan for a century. With that, man-portable energy weapons become possible, and there are civilian applications: Imagine three of them shipped to a disaster site, like Puerto Rico. Hell, we'll make her a Puerto Rican lesbian.)

Actually, we won't have her forced out by don't ask, don't tell (but mostly because I don't want to research it); we'll keep everything else, but she lost a hand. In energy form, she gives herself the hand back...but can't touch things; as a physical person, she's missing the hand.

As far as a name...Searchlight would be good, but because of how I envision the Stunning power working, call her Strobe.

Qualities

"Lady of Light" is a good epithet. I can tag it for almost anything to do with powers or dealing with the public.

"Scarred by the service." That's not bad: it reflects the hand, but the GM can also use it to compel inappropriate reactions to military personnel and the ever-popular flashback.

The same impulses that made her join the service will make her a hero. Rather than something wordy, we'll just say, "Has to help" is the third Quality.

The Final Result

Strobe (Rosa Maria Quintero)
Prowess2 
Coordination7 
Strength4 
Intellect4 
Awareness5 
Willpower5 
Stamina9 
Determination2 
Specialties
  • Military (+1)
  • Power (Stunning, I think) (+1)
  • Technology (+1)
Powers
  • Incredible (7) Dazzle
    • Extra: Effect (Alternate Form: Light)
    • Extra: Stunning Limit: Not vs or through machines
Qualities
  • Lady of Light
  • Scarred by the service
  • Has to help

The road not taken: Egomaniac

I might have made different decisions. If I had had my heart set on playing a mentalist character, I could have traded the Coordination with Willpower. The character's Stamina would be 11 instead of 9. Reflection could work very well as the sum totality of psychic power, or something. While Dazzle can work with mental powers, say I substituted Telekinesis for the Dazzle. This other character (call him Egomaniac, and we'll make him a villain) probably also needs another power, or an extra for Telekinesis...so I'm going to say ESP because I've suddenly thought of someone who makes tumblers move inside locks or triggers items inside things. He can stunt Telepathy or Mental Blast if need be, and he protects himself against her strobe effect by closing his eyes and using ESP to see. He's definitely got a Power skill, and I'm going to bump it to Expert, then give him the other Specialty of Stealth:

Egomaniac (Norman Island)
Prowess2 
Coordination5 
Strength4 
Intellect4 
Awareness5 
Willpower7 
Stamina11Strength 4 plus Willpower 7)
Determination* 
Specialties
  • Power Expert (telekinesis) (+1)
  • Stealth (+1)
Powers
  • Incredible (8) Resistance
    • Extra: Effect (Telekinesis)
    • Extra: ESP (vision) Limit: Preparation

Stunts Flight, Blast, Burst

Qualities
  • Duh, it's in the name
  • I never get my due, so I take it
  • Inventive

I'm not crazy about those qualities, so they might change.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Fiction: The No-Brainer (OIA #4)

You get to see my first thoughts about the brain-in-a-jar, a character type that I don’t think I ever considered before M&M, and which are repeated in the development of Paul in the Craigslist stories.

The No-Brainer

The hostages had been lying on the floor for about twenty minutes when one of the uniformed flunkies said they could sit instead, against the wall. Jedediah Cabot didn't recognize the green and gray uniforms, but he assumed they belonged to the brain in a jar.

"But no talking!" barked the flunky.

"Well, it's not every day you see a brain in a jar," protested Cabot mildly. Beside him, Hutton nodded and Toomey grunted. Other hostages shushed him.

"They may bask in my magnificence," said the brain. "For I am...the Macabre Master Mind." The jar flew closer to the wall of the room so everyone could get a closer look. Its voice coming out of the life support module was slightly tinny.

"Lovely parietal region," said Cabot, naming the only part of the brain he could remember. "Good looking sulci."

"You know brains." It sounded surprised.

"A little," said Cabot.

"You may stand," said the brain, and flew away to tell his men something.

"How do you know so much about brains?" asked Lamb Hutton from the floor.

"I watched my family be vivisected," Cabot muttered to her.

The brain flew back. From the new angle, Cabot could see the entire brain in a jar. The tank supporting the brain was marvelously compact: the entire life support was hidden in the foot or so beneath the brain that also held the rockets or antigravity or whatever let something as unaerodynamic as that fly. The spinal cord was invisible—either it was coiled under the brain or it wasn't there. "I won't always look like this," the brain informed him.

"When the rest of us are gray-haired, you'll still be hanging in there and you'll look like you do now."

"Ah, but I'll have a body then. Psionic powers and super powers in one package. No need to use the machines: I'll be able to feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, the ground beneath my feet. Or the air beneath my feet; if I can fly, so much the better. And women. I'll have women."

"You have anyone in mind?"

"Bodies or women?”

”Bodies. I don’t want to hear salacious details.”

A few. I've set up diversions around the city to keep the others busy. I will be the new Centurion."

"You do know the Centurion is dead?"

"Oh." A beam of golden light lanced from the container to Cabot. "You're telling the truth. Dr. Tomorrow, then."

"Missing, presumed dead."

"The Raven?"

"You want to be a woman?"

The brain moved back a foot. "The Raven is a woman?"

"The new one is."

"I spent too long in the secret Antarctic redoubt."

"You did," agreed Cabot.

"I must go to the loo," said Toomey in his thick Irish brogue.

“Just a second,” the brain said. “Superhero.”

A scarlet-clad gadgeteer had just appeared through the ceiling, lightning already dancing at the muzzle of the gun he held; two agents caught him in shimmering beams and held him immobile.

"Drop ceiling, air vent 12," said the brain, "that's how he got through."

The gadgeteer stood motionless. "He has no powers," said the brain. "Put him in the corner. Let's wait for the next one. Where's the one who needed the bathroom?"

"Jayz," said Toomey. "I don't have to go now."

"Take him anyway. Two guards, bathroom breaks one at a time."

One of the uniformed agents yawned. "All right. Me and—um, Carlisle, we'll take you. Come along, dwarf."

"I'm not a dwarf," said Toomey as he got up.

"Okay, midget," said another agent.

"Nor a midget," said Toomey.

"Agh, you reek of wine. Have you already been drinking? What'd you come here for? A handout?"

"To open an account, you buffoon. I don't think I will, now." Toomey disappeared around a corner with the men.

* * *

In the bathroom, Toomey shut the door. "I needs privacy," he said. What he needed was an idea. He could probably take one of them in a fight, maybe two, but a dozen was too many. The ceiling had access tubes built in, but he couldn't reach the ceiling. The corner of the bathroom had a tree in a planter, and he had one thought: Faerie gold.

But he'd like to do something immediate. Without wine near him, he couldn't travel to the office or even a nearby restaurant. His wine bottle, alas, was empty; he had drunk it dry while waiting. And changing water to wine was one of the seven bad miracles for members of Faerie, which he knew, but surely in this case...

He filled the bottle with water from the tap. Holding the bottle gently, gingerly, he felt the water inside it and the memory of the wine that had been in there. It had been an excellent oaked Chardonnay.

And it was again.

Delighted, he took a taste, just to be sure it was wine and not water. It was, in fact, an excellent oaked Chardonnay, and Toomey had a bit more. Then he had a bit after that, and he was just refilling the bottle with water when the guards broke into the washroom and escorted him out.

* * *

"He's trouble," observed the brain.

"Yup," said Cabot. "You couldn't smell him?"

"Cabot, I could fly or I could smell. The life support module is not that big. What happened to the male Raven?"

"Retired. By the way, we already have a villain named Mastermind."

"Soon there will be only one, and the world will tremble at my feet. When I have feet. My father named me Master Mind. I'll keep the name."

"He didn't know about the other one?"

"I'm sure he wanted me to destroy the other. My father knew everything!

"I'll tell you something I don't know. How does a guy who never takes off his armour get a girl?" Cabot pulled a chair over and sat on it backwards, the back facing towards the brain.

"My mother was Erzebet Skorzeny."

"Let me see... Glamour Queen?"

"Right. In the eighties. You've studied your superheroes."

"When I was moving to Freedom City, yes. Las Vegas only had the High Rollers and Diva. And Erzebet Skorzeny had you." Probably for money, Cabot thought. If what I've heard is true.

"Yes. She gave up superheroing because of the Moore Act."

"Uh-huh," said Cabot. "And you're a psionic, like she was."

"Actually, I was without mother's powers."

"That must have been disappointed your father."

"He didn't know. He and mother had a falling out." The brain rotated once. "Mother wasn't the easiest person to get along with. She knew when I was lying, for instance, and she punished me by giving me these illusions... She often said that the only reason she got into superheroing was the money."

"I've heard that." I wouldn't think of it as a big moneymaker, but money was Glamour Girl’s thing.

"When the Moore Act came along, all of mother's funds dried up. Pardon me; there's another superhero nearby." The brain moved to the center of the room.

An armored figure burst through one window, shedding glass shards for yards. Two of the flunkies fell down in pain. Its blue and gold metal gleaming, the armored figure lifted one hand but then froze, caught in the two beams. "Powered armor. Put him with the Scarlet Paladin or whatever his name was. Come, Jedediah." Cabot, nervously looking at the other hostages, went over to the brain.

"He's, uh, not handsome enough inside the armor?"

"Consider—his powers come from his armor and his mind. And his mind will be gone like guacamole dip if I use him."

"Right."

"You doubt my powers," the brain said. "I'll fight the next one."

"It's okay; let your boys handle him."

"I can do it."

"I never said you couldn't. Letting your minions do it, that's the smart way. The safe way." The brain clicked once at his emphasis on safe. "Other kids laugh at you because you were just a brain in a jar?"

"I was just a normal boy. They didn't know. I tried to tell them who my parents were, who my father was, but Mother made sure that they thought I was lying. I read a lot. I wasn't as handsome as father."

"I thought he was in armor."

"He walked like a handsome man."

Cabot hoped that Toomey had teleported, or made himself smaller, or something, but he came out of the bathroom as if nothing had happened. Oh, of course...he can only travel between wine cellars, and a bank won't have one.

Toomey returned, looking happy and sheepish and still reeking of wine.

Lamb Hutton put up her hand. "If you don't need them for a minute, I really need to go to the bathroom."

"You may go."

Cabot was relieved that the brain hadn't read anyone else's mind: Toomey believed himself a member of Faery, and Hutton thought herself a witch; and both would be immobilized once the brain knew that. "There will be champagne when I get a body, Jedediah," said the brain.

"To replace the one you lost."

"Some nights I still remember the accident: the sizzling flesh, the explosions..."

"Ewww." He stopped a moment. "The explosions?"

"On a rainy night, I had just gotten my license and I went off the road, into a ravine. The gas tank blew up."

Cabot thought, No, they don't. Gas tanks rarely blow up—they make cars so the gas tanks rarely explode.

"Father rescued me. He was too late for Mother, and my...my body. But I'll have a new one."

"And you got to know your father."

* * *

Lamb Hutton looked around. There was a bit of dirt in the ladies' washroom: a potted tree in the corner. So she threw it at the guard's faces...and then what?

People would die, that's what.

If she had a lot of dirt, she could build a wall around the hostages, save them, but she didn't have a lot of dirt. She knew there was dirt beneath the bank, but how to touch it?

She reached out to it...tried to make it move...because she knew the dirt was there. All it had to do was enter the bank....

She tried again, fatigue settling on her like a blanket.

Failure. She was exhausted, unable to help more. The underside of the bank was too strong--maybe just the city, maybe against burrowing villains. She used the toilet, then washed her hands, and opened the door.

* * *

"Yes," said the brain confidently. "My father was a great man. He showed me his lab. Other than that, though, I didn't get to talk to many people in the redoubt, when I was recovering."

"There were underlings, I'm sure."

The brain floated farther away from people; Cabot followed it. "Underlings hardly count, they're too busy licking your boots--metaphorically speaking. And they're all clones anyway."

That seems…clone-ist.

There seemed to be no volume control on the speaker. The costumed flunkies looked at each other. Looking at them, Cabot did notice a sameness in their height and build. "Of course," he said.

"Anyway. Being without a body, I developed these powers. Great powers. Here's a superhero now; you'll see."

There was a blur, and the flunkies were disarmed, with all their guns in a huge pile near the hostages.

"Stop," said the brain. "STOP!" A violet beam from the brain hit the blur. The blur stopped, revealing a young black man in blue and white tights, goggles, and a helmet.

"Behold my power, Jedediah. You! Re-arm my men."

The man disappeared, and then the flunkies had guns again, and the man was standing before the brain. "You see?" the brain said.

Cabot bit his lower lip. "So you have your body."

"And my powers won't leave me when I have a body back. But he's not suitable."

"Why not? He has super powers."

"Well... He's black."

"Yeah?" Cabot's best friend back in Las Vegas had been black. If he survived this, he should give Isaiah a call.

Hutton was led back. She gave Cabot a tiny shake of her head.

"Well..." said the brain. "Black men in America have a rough time of it. I need a white man." Green light lanced from the brain to the man and he crumpled to the floor.

"You wouldn't happen to have been white before?" It wasn’t much of a guess; Glamour Queen was white.

"That has nothing to do with it."

"Riiiiight," said Cabot.

"I'll take the next one."

"The next handsome young white male with super powers."

"That goes without saying."

"You better hope the Next Gen shows up. No, wait, they're half women and blacks."

"I can replace you."

"You'd better. I would think that you, a person without skin, know there's more to people than skin colour."

"I'm not saying he's inferior..."

"No, but you don't want to be him."

"Because of..."

"Because he's black," said Cabot. He hoped the brain couldn't hear his heart hammering in his chest.

"No."

"Because your father lied to you."

"No— What about my father?"

"Look," said Cabot, "your mother had a force field, she could fly...what makes you think a car crash is going to take her out?"

"It was an accident."

"Gas tanks don't normally blow up. In fact, they make cars so gas tanks don't blow up, and yours did. Accident? My butt."

"She died. A piece of—"

"Did you see the body?" He was taking a chance, and he knew it. "Because if you didn't see the body, it didn't happen that way."

"Quiet!" said the brain, forgetting to use its powers.

"He can make clones!" shouted Cabot. "Why couldn't he clone you a new body? Because you hadn't developed powers yet, that's why!"

"Quiet!" said the brain, and this time it did remember its powers, because a violet light caught Cabot, and Cabot felt an overwhelming urge to be silent.

"I must..." the brain began. "I need... I need to talk to him."

It left the bank, and flew south. Bullets bounced harmlessly off its sides.

The flunkies looked at each other and fled.

Cabot was quiet, as he would be for days.

Hutton looked at Cabot and Toomey. "Too bad they already have any gold."

"No," said Toomey happily. "They have only fairy gold: the appearance of gold that will change back to being leaves tomorrow. I changed it while I was in the washroom."

Cabot managed to smile.

Toomey

Toomey
PRWCRDSTRINTAWRWILStaminaDetermination
47346132
PowersSpecialties
  • Fair (4) Teleportation
    • Limit: wine cellar to wine cellar
    • Extra: Reliable
  • Good (5) Magic
    • Limit: Performance
  • Poor (2) Shrinking
    • Limit: Constant
  • Stealth Master (+3)
  • Occult (Faery) Expert (+2)
Qualities
  • Clurichaun (Fae)
  • Unavoidably attracted to booze
  • Sensitive about, well, everything.
  • Small

The heroes who appear briefly are from the archetypes that were in Mutants & Masterminds second edition.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Fiction: Interlude with a Dead Man (OIA #3)

Interlude with a Dead Man

"Mr. Fazakas says he's fine," the nurse told them. "Except no respiration, no heartbeat, no blood flow, nothing. The room is semiprivate but we've moved Mr. Gavell out. Pending."

The hospital administrator, Mr. Cavanaugh, said, "This section has just been rebuilt."

"It looks pretty," said Seth Markur, deadpan.

"You'll keep things quiet right? This is a recuperative section. They need their sleep."

"We'll see him," said Dr. Gideon LaCroix.

"Just...be careful," said the administrator, wringing his hands.

The two me walked away, and then Markur murmured, "Vampire?"

"Maybe. Restless dead, perhaps." He smiled. "Maybe it's a demon."

"I wish. They're easy if you know the name," Markur replied. "I don't smell one, though." LaCroix pushed open the door with his fetch stick and Markur followed closely behind, penknife in hand.

"Hello, Mr. Fazakas. How are you doing?"

"I'm fine. Stiffening up a bit, though." Mr. Fazakas was in his sixties, curly salt-and-pepper hair around the rim of his bald head. He was sitting in bed, the sheet gathered around his apple belly. "Tell you the truth, I haven't been pain-free since a building foundation fell on me in 82. Hurt my knees. I feel this good, I might go back to work. You're doctors?"

"He's the doctor," said Markur, standing back.

"I'm what's known as a traditional practitioner," said LaCroix. "Would you mind lying back for me and just relaxing?"

"Oh, you can't do that in the middle of a workday. You relax and you might not get up, heh-heh-heh."

"So true, Mr. Fazakas. Just lie still for a moment." LaCroix spoke in words that only spirits could hear. "What do you remember?"

"Call me Constantin," said Mr. Fazakas. "They came to wake me for my sleeping pill, but I was already awake. I haven't felt sleepy since."

"What holds you here?"

"Here? Nothing. My wife passed on, my son died in an accident, my daughter married a Catholic and then moved out West and became a lesbian. No grandchildren. I'd die if I could."

"But you stayed with your body."

"What else should I do? I'm lying in bed waiting. Now, though, I feel so good I might go back to work. They'll be surprised to see me at the shop."

"You didn't see a light? Or hear your wife?"

"Nope."

LaCroix turned to Markur. "No light. No agent, no psychopomp."

"That's odd. Usually spirits find their own ways to the afterlife." Markur looked around the room as if the answer were there.

"I can give him a fast trip."

Markur shrugged. "Do it then."

"Just lie back, Mr. Fazakas. I'm going to help you along." LaCroix opened his pouch and poured corn meal along the floor, spelling out mystic sigils and the names of spirits. Markur made sure the doors to the washroom and hall were shut as LaCroix took off his suit jacket. Then LaCroix started singing.

Finally, after fifteen minutes, LaCroix stopped and said, "It's done." He mopped sweat from his brow. "He's passed on."

"I'm still here," moaned Mr. Fazakas, "but I can't move."

"What—?" LaCroix bent over the dead man. Markur gave a cry and knocked him aside.

"Demon!"

Fazakas' arms closed on empty space, missing LaCroix by inches.

"He knows me," growled the thing now wearing Fazakas' body. "Or does he?"

"I know you well enough," said Markur, and with a flick of his wrist his penknife extended to a full sword, and he gripped it with two hands.

"Just say my name and make me go away, then." The thing grinned, showing sharp fangs and shredded the bed sheets with fingers turned into claws.

"Vampire?" asked LaCroix, scrambling back on the floor as Markur kept himself between the two.

"Some vampires are demons. Demons under the Vampire King."

"Akazizel!" coughed the monster.

"What'd he say?"

"A name, but it's not the name of the Vampire King." Markur recognized the name of his sword but did not say so. He moved warily, trying to keep himself between LaCroix and the monster.

"Akazizel, you will roast in the lowest pits! Your banishment will not save you."

"You have a name I don't know about?" asked LaCroix.

"Yeah, but that's not it." Markur slashed once, and the monster flipped up the hospital bed to stop him. Floor tiles cracked. "Easy to banish demons if you know their names."

LaCroix spotted a crucifix on the table beside the other bed and grabbed it. He thrust it toward the monster, which hissed in response.

Markur leapt over the bed. The monster grabbed the IV stand and parried as they exchanged staccato blows.

LaCroix held his fetch stick high. "Your body is mine to command. The bodies of all the dead are mine." He stared at the body of Mr. Fazakas and focused his will—

The demon laughed. "You cannot banish me. This body is mine, now, and I shape it to my needs." It was barely recognizable as Fazakas now, lean and hungry, with long nails—claws—like swords, and teeth like sickles. It picked up a bedside table and threw it at LaCroix. Glass shattered and dropped musically to the floor. LaCroix was already somewhere else, his crucifix held forward as a shield.

While it was distracted, Markur cut the demon's hand off; the demon roared, and the hand began to crawl along the floor, claws scritching on the tile.

"Bind it!" shouted LaCroix.

"I can't, you wrecked the circle!" Markur slashed the hand in two; each half began to move. Markur's nostrils twitched: each separated body part had become a vessel for a demon. "Three demons! Or more! It's a gateway!" He raised the sword high for a broad sweep, but LaCroix could not see at what. "Cover me!"

The demon swung at Markur, and LaCroix brought the crucifix down on its shoulder. Sulfurous smoke erupted, combining the worst of rotten eggs, bad meat, and vomit.

The demon roared again, and then: "I'll stitch your arm to mine for that, and use it to disembowel you!"

LaCroix leapt over the other bed and tumbled to the floor there. Markur cleaved a great hole in the floor; steam and other gases spurted up, obscuring Markur in a cloud of greenish smoke.

The demon was too angry at LaCroix to notice. He tossed the big hospital bed aside, to the window. The thick metal tubing of the bed frame crumpled like straws, but the window held.

Markur slashed the floor again, and this time water began to well up. LaCroix pulled the curtain between the beds, granting him a half-second to scramble out of sight.

The demon tore through the curtain and caught LaCroix in one rawhide hand, threw him ahead and out the door, where he could be skewered.

There were screams from outside. Two men and a woman shambled into the room, naked but for toe tags and evidence of violent deaths.

"Zombies?" cried Markur. He swore.

"Had to call them—I can't touch him," called LaCroix from the hall.

"Not until I've finished destroying the gateway!"

The first corpse reached the inside of the room and shuddered as a demon possessed it. "Too late," it growled.

The other two corpses stopped moving.

Grinning, the original demon scooped up one of the corpses and threw it into the room as Markur made a last cut at the ceiling. The corpse knocked him over and knocked his sword from his hand. Acrid smoke began to billow from the roof.

"Akazizel!" cried the newest demon even as its skin sloughed off, and sprang after the sword.

LaCroix waited to see what would happen with the zombie thrown into the room. He had no chance to see: the Fazakas-demon emerged from the room and charged him. LaCroix called his remaining zombies.

Markur couldn't see his sword for the acrid smoke filling the room, but he could see the newest demon scrambling for it, and he dove on the demon.

"Akazizel! Know that Zekabelial sent you to your vengeance—"

Markur spoke quickly, an ancient incantation of banishment, naming Zekabelial specifically, and the writhing skinless thing beneath him stopped moving. In the clear space beneath the clouds, he could see his sword, under a radiator.

Without his sword's assistance, those vapors could knock him out. He crawled toward it.

In the hall, the demon realized what was happening. "Akazizelllll!" it screamed and carried the two zombies with it into the room. Just as Markur reached for his sword, the demon sank his claw into Markur's back, impaling him to the floor.

The demon chuckled like old oil draining from a car. "Almost lost. Not quite." The demon reached forward, and couldn't.

It was stuck by the same claw, deep in the floor. Dark blood spread slowly from Markur's body.

"You'll have to wait...for me...to die," gasped Markur.

"I'll wait. I have all the time in the world," said the demon. "And beyond."

"I don't think so," said LaCroix. He poured corn meal in a circle around the demon.

"What are you doing?" the demon struggled. The zombies dropped the two wriggling half-hands into the circle.

"Your body told me a secret before you had full control. Except I didn't know what it meant."

"What? Stop."

The zombies began to bang rhythmically on metal: a bedpan, a pitcher.

"It told me your name." LaCroix sang the incantation of banishment while the demon struggled, opening wider holes in Markur's body, while he winced and groaned.

LaCroix banged his stick on the ground. "Be gone."

The demon was gone. The zombies fell to the ground, lifeless corpses.

"Here," said LaCroix. "This is yours." He batted the sword to Markur, and fell to the floor.

Markur lay there amidst the wreckage, feeling his body grow whole again.

"How did we get this job?" asked LaCroix.

From his position on the floor, Markur said, "Campbell promised them less collateral damage than if superheroes handled it."

Lying in the rubble beside him, LaCroix laughed and laughed.

Gideon LaCroix

Dr. Gideon LaCroix
PRWCRDSTRINTAWRWILStaminaDetermination
34454591
PowersSpecialties
Fetch Stick
  • Great (6) Nullification (Limit: Magic)
    • Extra: ESP (Vision)
  • Gris-Gris bag: Average (3) Magic
  • Occult Expert (+2)
  • Anthropology Expert (+2)
  • Mental Resistance (+1)
Qualities
  • Professor and houngan
  • Part-time investigator
  • Strict code of behaviour (such as not touching menstruating women) or loses ability to work magic for days

Seth Markur

Seth Markur
PRWCRDSTRINTAWRWILStaminaDetermination
53434482
PowersSpecialties
  • Sword (Demon Azazizel): Great (6) Slashing
    • Extra: Transformation (objects) (Limit: only cutting objects, limit: Only Azazizel)
    • Extra: Regeneration
  • Fair (4) Detection (Demons) (smell)
  • Military Expert(+2))
  • Occult (demonology) Expert (+2)
  • Mental Resistance (+1)
Qualities
  • Spent 600 years in Hell
  • 14th century mercenary
  • Secret: that sword is a demon

Demons are in ICONS A to Z.

For a little while...

SYSTEM: ICONS

In honour of the Fainting Goat sale at RPGNow (until July 3), here’s the unedited version of the adventure I ran for the BAMF podcast. I’m not going to leave it there long; just long enough for people to get FG products that they need to run it. If they want to.



It uses re-purposed characters from Stark City, Super Villain Handbook and MMM. It also offers some updates to a bunch of other characters, such as Chill, Golden Eagle, and Professor Prism.

And it’s way too long. But there it is. With zombie sharks, shipwrecks, andadvice on playing in the world of James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

I know; I seem to talk of nothing else. Sorry.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

SYSTEM: Any Supers

This is not market research. But I'm curious.

What makes a supers world or setting intriguing for you to play in? What makes it attractive? What sparks your imagination?

Is it some one-sentence summary of a cool situation? Is it familiarity? Is it the villains? Is it the place?

What makes it interesting? What makes you want to play there?

For me:

  • The villains have to pop. They have to be interesting. 
  • There has to be a possibility of juicy role-playing stuff; if the setting has only villains, I'm less attracted to it.
  • I want some of it to be in shades of gray, but some of it is clearly straight-forward. I want to be able to add nuance if I feel like it.
  • And I want to be able to play an expy.
You?